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Book review: Luther Wright's book describes time with Utah Jazz

Published: Friday, Dec. 3 2010 12:21 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — They're his thoughts, his feelings, mostly his words.

They're the answers to questions perhaps never asked during his rookie, and lone, NBA season.

They're oft-powerful anecdotes, all contained in the just-published memoir of one-time Jazz first-round draft choice — and big-time bust — Luther Wright.

"A Perfect Fit" ($15; Gallery Books) is the perfect read for Jazz fans whose lasting, and perhaps only, memory of Wright is what was at the time described as a "nervous breakdown" at an Interstate 80 rest stop near Tooele.

Wright and co-author Karen Hunter, a former New York Daily News sportswriter, shed light on demons that terrorized the burly center and offer interesting insight on why his short stay in Utah went awry.

From his memories of sexual molestation by three relatives to substance abuse that started even before he got to Seton Hall University, Wright and Hunter cover it all.

It's the compelling tale of an out-of-control spiral that began to take a turn for the better only after two toes from his drug-ravaged body were amputated, and the short-but-mesmerizing story of how he got to where he is today, playing gospel music and leading a weekly Bible study class at a church in native New Jersey.

The softback starts on NBA Draft night in 1993, when Utah took Wright at No. 18 overall — two picks after his homestate New Jersey Nets passed, taking Kansas guard Rex Walter instead.

"I was told that Utah needed me. Their center Mark Eaton was gone, and I would be that final piece for (John) Stockton and (Karl) Malone to finally win a championship. ... I knew who they were, but I wasn't a fan and I couldn't tell you anything about them outside of their names."

Wright describes his arrival at a Salt Lake City hotel lobby, where "I noticed that I didn't see any black people, just whites and Mexicans. ... I saw people with cowboy hats and cowboy boots."

Writes Wright:

"I found it (Utah) was run by the Mormons and they had their own set of rules. Rules I had no intention of following."

Wright describes how then fellow-rookie Bryon Russell tried to keep him on the straight-and-narrow shortly after he signed a $5 million deal with the Jazz, money he still lives off of today thanks to a lengthy annual payment plan, but how during his first week of summer-league play in Utah "I went to a corner liquor store and said to someone standing around outside and said, 'Yo, where the weed at?' "

He talks about the South Jordan house he moved into with multiple family members, including his mother and stepfather.

"Our next-door neighbor on the right had horses. ... Another neighbor down the road had three wives and 20 kids. ... We were like George and Weezy and Lionel. We had moved on up."

He recalls how Malone got onto him after he missed the first few days of preseason training camp in Hawaii.

How he get into trouble for both playing drums with the house band instead of taking part in pregame warmups during a game at Houston.

And how he had a hard time playing for coach Jerry Sloan, who once visited his house along with then front-office member Scott Layden because Wright had missed a practice due to a dental appointment he neglected to tell the team about.

"I didn't have any time to air out the place, so I had to let them in. It must have smelled like a weed factory. I tried to play it off and they didn't say anything, but I know they smelled it. They left and the next day I got hit with a fine for missing practice."

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